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Abstracts 30 May

Television and Related Media in the Everyday Lives of UK Preschoolers: Play, Literacies and Classed Practices 

Fiona Scott, The University of Sheffield, UK

Existing studies examining very young children's relationships with television in relation to social class or socio-economic status tend to be quantitative, light-touch and arguably reductive (with a focus on what and how much children watch). Social class is often inserted as 'another variable' in existing debates about negative aspects of television and related media. There has, thus far, been little detailed fieldwork examining the role that engagement with television and related media at home play in shaping children's very earliest understandings of the world and their early literacy practices across a socio-economically diverse range of participants.

This paper presents findings from a recently completed mixed-methods study, including the results of a survey with 1,200 UK parents and 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at home with 8 UK families. It discusses the role that TV and related media play in shaping children’s experiences of the world and their earliest learning, showing how digital technology, play and literacy are interrelated. It will illustrate a range of contemporary home/family practices around television and related media in a diverse range of UK homes and ask the question: 'how is social class implicated in these practices?' Drawing on a Funds of Knowledge approach and Bourdiesian notions of habitus, it will also take a new look at the gap between home and school literacies with regards to children’s play around television and related media.


Fiona Scott is a mixed-methods researcher at the end of an ESRC-funded PhD studentship that investigates preschool children's home engagement with television and related media. Her PhD study included a survey of 1,200 UK parents and 9-12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at home with 8 UK families of children aged 3 or 4. Her work considers the role that TV plays in shaping children’s experiences of the world and their earliest learning, showing how digital technology, play and literacy are interrelated. In particular, this work questions how social class is implicated in children's practices with television and other technologies.

Young Children’s Meaning-Making in Interaction with Ramasjang – a Digital Storyworld for Tablet Computer

 Thomas Enemark Lundtofte, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

The National Danish Broadcast Company (DR) has produced content for children since 1947, starting with radio programs and moving to television in the 1950s. In 2007 DR started a television channel for children called Ramasjang, which now targets children under the age of seven. It offers a storyworld (Jenkins, 2006; Klastrup & Tosca, 2004) that contains several of the canonised characters and plenty new ones as well. Following the popularisation of tablet computers among young children with Danish children among some of the “heaviest users” (Johansen, Larsen, & Ernst, 2016), DR Ramasjang launched an app in 2013 resulting in more than a million downloads to date, according to DR’s own numbers.

My project focuses on meaning-making processes from a rather media specific point of view in the context of everyday life, aiming to produce knowledge about technology as well as content. In my presentation, I will be asking the question “when and how can we observe young children making meaning in media practice with DR Ramasjang?” I will be presenting some initial findings from my fieldwork in which I have made video observations of young children using the Ramasjang app in their homes.

Following a theoretical framework in which I draw on symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969; Mead & Morris, 1967), thick description (Geertz, 1973) and phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, 2009), I will be looking for instances of meaningfulness vis-à-vis “having fun” as conveyed by the children. I will evaluate interesting passages in my video data with my informants, thus also getting their perspectives on what they were doing. Consequently, I will present instances of media specific meaning-making from a phenomenological as well as a semiotic angle in relation to a public service media product with a rich, and also commercial context.

Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism; perspective and method. Berkeley: University of California Press
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. New York: Basic Books.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.
Johansen, S. L., Larsen, M. C., & Ernst, M. J. (2016). Young Children (0-8) and Digital technology: A qualitative exploratory study - National report - DENMARK. EU Comission.
Klastrup, L., & Tosca, S. (2004, 2004). Transmedial worlds - rethinking cyberworld design.
Mead, G. H., & Morris, C. W. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 14. impression). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (2009). Kroppens fænomenologi (Vol. 2. udgave). Helsingør: Det lille Forlag.


Thomas Enemark Lundtofte is a Ph.D. student in Media Studies at University of Southern Denmark, Odense. His project is about young children’s media practices with the DR Ramasjang app provided by the National Danish Broadcasting Company (DR). With an ethnographic lens this project investigates children between the ages of 3 and 7 and focuses on meaning-making processes through phenomenological methods, participant observations and informal interviews in the home setting. The project began September 1st 2016 and is expected to be finished in three years.


MineCrafting Friendships – Children's Play Activities and Production in Minecraft and YouTube as Playful Association

Helle Marie Skovbjerg, Aalborg University, Denmark


Based on a phenomenological inspired fieldwork of children (aged 7 to 11) playing Minecraft and producing, showing and sharing experiences through YouTube this paper explores how children engage, and relate through the activities. Focus is on sociability and playful association (Simmel, 1997), as the study investigate the relatations made around the play activities.

The children are shouting, they are building, they kill zombies, while they are sharing with others, learning from others, teasing others, helping others etc. They are engaging in their play practices and creating play moods (Karoff, 2013) that forms the basis for striking up friendships within the context of playing Minecraft and producing/consuming Mindcraft metatexts via YouTube.

The investigation shows that children perform different types of friendships in the combination of Minecraft and Youtube. The analysis expose two dominant types of friends: “The generous Friend” and “The naughty Friend”. Both of these draw on the Greek understanding of friendship as a combination of “to receive” and “to follow”(Huber, 2006). For Aristoteles friendship, can lead to a better way of doing and thinking, and for Platon the dialogue between friends can even lead to a higher understanding of yourself. The combination Minecraft/YouTube shows forms of friendship that underline the importance of showing, sharing and caring, and show how this unfolds across media, stories and materialities.

The theoretical point of departure for the study is the mood perspective (Karoff, 2013). The mood perspective is a conceptualisation of playing activities, where children´s playing activities are seen as valuable (Heidegger, 1998; Prout & James, 1997; Schmidt, 2011) and with the aim of creating play moods – together (Simmel, 1997).

Keywords: Play, Minecraft, sociability, friendship, ethnographic study.

Heidegger, M. (1998). Being and Time: A Translation of Sein und Zeit. State University of New York Press. doi.org/10.1353/mln.1998.0037

Huber, H. (2006). Aristoteles: Nikomachische Ethik. Politeia, 356–361. doi.org/10.1524/9783050050232

Karoff, H. S. (2013). Play practices and play moods, (September), 37–41. doi.org/10.1080/21594937.2013.805650

Prout, A., & James, A. (1997). A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood? Provenance, promise and problems. In Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the sociological study of childhood (pp. 7–33).
Schmidt, L.-H. (2011). On Respect. (L.-H. Schmidt, Ed.). BOOK, Aarhus, DNK: Aarhus University Press.
Simmel, G. (1997). Simmel on culture. In Simmel on culture: Selected writings (pp. 109–120).


Associate Professor Helle Marie Skovbjerg studies the relationship between play and media through the mood perspective (Play Moods and Play Practices in International Journal of Play, 2013). The mood perspective is a conceptualization of play focusing on practices, tools for play and types of ways in which people use tools and practices to achieve a playfull way of being – play moods. Helle's studies aim to cross traditional dichotomies as technology /non-technology, materialities/non-materialities, and particularly how these practices shift in relation to toys, technology and media.

The Prosumer Child and the Study of Children’s Literature

Mavis Reimer, University of Winnipeg, Canada

The current field of criticism and theory of children’s literature, like children’s literature itself, is founded on the assumption that children are sufficiently unlike adults to require a literature of their own, as Perry Nodelman and I observe in The Pleasures of Children’s Literature. The fundamental assumption about difference that marks the relation of children and adults is a historical construction, the product of a particular time and place, that of the European Enlightenment. In the mediatized world in which we now live, however, a new conception of “the child” is emerging, one that is likely to shift the ground of the discipline of children’s and youth studies. In this presentation, I propose to sketch the figure of the prosumer (child) subject that is implied and called into being by participatory media in the era of Web 2.0, and to consider the differences and the continuities between this subject and that of the Romantic child subject invoked by much children’s literature. My discussion will focus on the characteristics of the distributed subject (as against the layered subject) and the curated self (as against the innocent self), and on the notion of consent as it operates in both paradigms. In conclusion, I will speculate on the implications of the changes now underway for the theories and practices of the study of children’s texts.


Mavis Reimer is Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg. She was the Canada Research Chair in Young People’s Texts and Cultures between 2005 and 2015, lead editor of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures between 2009 and 2015, and President of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature between 2011 and 2015. She is the founding director of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures (CRYTC) at the University of Winnipeg; founding President of the Canadian Association for Research in Young People’s Cultures; an editor of five collections of scholarly essays; co-author, with Perry Nodelman, of the third edition of The Pleasures of Children’s Literature; and author of more than thirty scholarly essays and chapters on the subject of young people’s texts and cultures.

What’s the Challenge? Experts on Children’s Media and Mediatisation Around 1968

Helle Strandgaard Jensen, Aarhus University, Denmark

Children mainly get to define ‘their’ media via consumption practices. Adults, on the other hand, get to define children’s media via control over production, content and as enablers of consumption. In my talk I will discuss how various professional and political groups have defined (in)appropriate children’s media  public debates in Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) between 1945 and 1985. I will focus on the late 1960s and early 1970s where changes in the cultural and social landscape of the welfare states provoked new ideas about the roles of media in children’s lives. Debates about children’s literature at the beginning of the 1960s quickly spread to other areas of children’s media: films, television and theatre, as they provoked questions that were not media specific but related to children’s status in society as such. At the end of the 1960s the entire area of children’s media has undergone dramatic change, and definitions of ‘appropriate’ media now followed an entirely new set of norms and values. I will draw on theories of cross-media consumption and transnational history in order to show how these dramatic changes took place. I will place my arguments with in Scandinavian childhood and welfare state history, an approach that demonstrates why professional and political groups have perceived children’s media as the key to the enculturation of future generations.


Helle Strandgaard Jensen is Associate professor in contemporary cultural history at Department of History and Classical Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. Jensen’s work focuses on contemporary childhood and media history in Scandinavia, Western Europe and the US after 1945. She combines historical methods with theoretical approaches from childhood studies, cultural studies, and media studies. Her current research project, financed by the Danish Research Council and the European Commissions’ Marie Curie actions, focuses on the children’s programme Sesame Street and its reception and demarcation in the US, UK, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany. Since 2015 Jensen has been the co-chair of the working group for ‘Digital literacy in homes and communities’ in the EU-funded research network DigiLitEY. She is the author of the book From Superman to Social Realism: Children’s Media and Scandinavian Childhood (John Benjamins 2017).

Constructing Children’s Agency in the Age of Digital DIY

Allen Kempton and Sara M. Grimes, University of Toronto, Canada

Children have long produced their own do-it-yourself (DIY) media at the individual and local scale. Today, children’s DIY media creation increasingly takes place online, using digital tools that allow them to produce and share their ideas globally. Children’s involvement in creating, remixing, and distributing digital media content represents a departure from traditional production models, creating compelling opportunities for the advancement of children’s cultural rights. This paper relays findings from a three-year, cross-sector inquiry into the opportunities and challenges associated with the rise of children’s online DIY media (The Kids DIY Media Partnership). Here, we discuss findings which focused on building a better understanding of pertinent US and Canadian regulatory climates and identifying policy implications of children’s participation in online cultural production. A key finding that emerged was that, while industry approaches to children’s online cultural production are shifting, regulatory systems have not yet caught up with contemporary usage patterns. Maintaining historical trends, they often configure children as consumers and potential victims of the digital age. Consequently, these regulatory frameworks largely fail to provide adequate support for children’s rights relating to privacy, personal data sovereignty, copyright, and authorship.

This paper discusses how policy and self-regulatory discourses contribute to the social construction of children’s agency online. We examine how notions of children’s agency are mobilized or omitted in policy documents and industry self-regulatory guidelines, and contrast these discursive imaginings with emerging empirical research into children’s actual use practices. The theoretical framework draws on critically-informed adaptations of social constructivism drawn from science and technology studies (SCOT and critical theory of technology), as well as political economy of communication theories. We conclude that the disconnect that persists between policy discourses on children’s agency and the actual practices of child user-creators is resulting in a systematic disregard and gradual devaluing of children’s cultural rights.


Allen Kempton is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. His interests lie in a theory-centered approach to the intersection of human experience and technology. He is a Research Assistant of the Kids DIY Media Partnership project, focusing on policy analysis.

Dr. Sara M. Grimes is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, where she teaches and researches in the areas of children's digital media culture(s), games and play studies, and critical theories of technology. She is Principal Investigator of the Kids DIY Media Partnership.

Changing Concepts of Children’s Literature in Textbooks for Literature Teaching

Anna Karlskov Skyggebjerg, Aarhus University, Denmark

Very many children have their most important and influential reading experiences in school. Often, literature teaching includes children’s literature, but few studies have explored the concepts of children’s literature in textbooks. Maybe, textbooks are one of the most important factors in the literature classroom. From a quite new survey of the use of textbooks, we know that the use and influence of textbooks and online resources is increasing, and teachers in general are very satisfied with the textbooks, they use (Bundsgaard 2017, Gee 2015, J.J. Hansen 2010). In textbooks, there are different views on literature and pedagogical methods, and by choosing a certain textbook the teacher has outsourced some of his/her own choices.

This paper is a part of a qualitative research project about textbooks and resources for learning in general. The paper represents an interest in textbooks as an educational tool in literature teaching in lower secondary school in Denmark. Especially, the paper will focus on the use of different kinds of children’s literature in a historical perspective. Many textbooks have the intentions to facilitate the teacher and the teaching through a preoccupied curriculum and some relatively precise descriptions of literature lessons. Of course, textbooks are not always used as they are intended to be, but one of the premises of this paper is that popular textbooks represent dominating views on literature teaching. In other words, a textbook also indicates certain considerations about children’s literature and the reading child/pupil.

The empirical material of the paper is five popular textbooks for the teaching of literature in grade 4-5 in Danish schools from the late 1970’s until today. In grade 4-5, the pupils are capable for literary thinking and literature is a particular discipline in the teaching of Danish. The pupils are in the middle of their childhood (between 10 and 12 years old) and many of them read a lot of children’s literature in their spare time (Hansen 2014). The selected textbooks are looked upon as both representative and influential, and they represent a much larger material from the last 40 years. The criteria for selecting the analyzed books (and serial concepts) have been distribution and popularity among teachers. The titles are Dig selv og … [You and …] (1977/1983), Arbejd med dansk! [Work with Danish] (1986), Digtning og dansk [Poetry and Danish] (1995), Læs for livet [Read for life] (1998) and Fandango (2008). The last one is the most frequently mentioned textbook in the recent teacher survey (Bundsgaard et al. 2017).

The textbooks are analyzed and discussed with concepts from children’s literature studies (Reynolds 2011), discourse analysis (Gee 2002, 2015), and theory about teaching literature (Langer 2011). The key questions of this paper are then: How do these textbooks present literature? Which types of literature and genres do they include? How do the textbooks address the pupils as readers and interpreters? How are the pupils’ potentials for engaging in literature supported by using these materials? Furthermore, it will be discussed if there is a recognizable or surprising development in the view on literature and literature teaching during the last four decades.


Bundsgaard, Jeppe et al.(2017, forthcoming). Læreres brug af læremidler. DPU, Aarhus Universitet
Gee, James P. (2002). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. Theory and Method. London: Routledge
Gee, James P. (2015). Literacy and Education. London: Routledge
Hansen, Jens Jørgen (2010). Læremiddellandskabet. Fra læremiddel til undervisning. Akademisk forlag
Hansen, Stine Reinholdt (2014): Når børn vælger litteratur. Ph.d.-afhandling, Aarhus Universitet
Langer, Judith (1995/2011). Envisioning literature. New York : Teachers College Press
Reynolds, Kimberly (2011). Children’s Literature. A very short introduction. Oxford University Press


Anna Karlskov Skyggebjerg is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. She holds a PhD in Genre Theory and Children’s Literature. Her research interests include intertextuality in children’s literature, fantasy, historical novels and information books and the use of children’s books. She has published several articles in books and periodicals; her recent projects and articles have been on children’s spare time writing and on children’s literature in an eco-critical perspective. She participates in an international project named “Nature in Children’s Literature” hosted by the University of Western Norway: http://blogg.hib.no/nachilit/

What is a Pickaxe in Danish?: Danish Children’s Engagement in English-Language Media

Signe Hannibal Jensen, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

In an increasingly globalized and mediatized world, children’s spare time engagement in media may not be mediated in Danish; rather with English as the leading lingua franca, many children engage in activities mediated in English.   

The present paper investigates the English-language media habits of seven Danish children between the ages of 7 and 10: four girls and three boys.  The children were interviewed in groups while showing the researcher which English-language media activities they engage in in their spare time. One child was interviewed on her own. The main focus of the interviews, and the present study, was getting a sense of WHAT types of English-language media the children engage in and very importantly on HOW they engage in these activities, i.e. how do they perceive of and engage with the English input. The children thus engaged in the activities during the interview.  

The children were chosen on the basis of their engagement in English mediated spare time activities as attested through a one week language diary (LD) where the children filled out for everyday their engagement in, among others, the following activities mediated in English: listening to music, watching YouTube/Netflix, etc. and gaming in English. The children are all part of a large ongoing research project on the importance of starting age for learning English funded by the Independent Research Council.  The 7th child (aged 7) was chosen on the basis of her participation in a pilot on the LD. As data has been collected recently, it has not yet been coded an analyzed. However, results from the LDs show that many Danish children engage in English language mediated activities, that there are significant gender differences and that gaming and YouTube are related to language learning.


Signe Hannibal Jensen is a PhD fellow at the Department of Language and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark. Her primary interests are language acquisition through incidental learning in particularly YouTube and gaming as well as the divide between learning inside and outside school. She is part of a larger government funded project (FKK) on the importance of starting age for learning English.

Dynamic Literacies and Agentive Learners in Static Systems

John Potter, University College London, UK

Agency in learning settings is a key issue for educational systems around the world, particularly where performative measures threaten to inhibit children’s ability to learn and their teachers’ abilities to respond creatively to their needs.  In the context of the wider use of digital media and technology this issue occupies a contested space between home and school and brings into question wider issues of definitions of both “literacy” and “agency”. What does it mean to be literate in 2016?  What does it mean to be agentive in as a learner in 2016? Based on a number of research projects in recent years my talk explores media production and curation as a set of active new literacy practices in which particular strategic dispositions and skills are employed by children of primary and lower secondary age (5 – 14) to represent identity, affiliation and cultural capital. It will consider the nature of the pedagogical response to these paradigm shifts in formal and informal educational settings. It will introduce the concept of the semi-permeable membrane between home and school as a third space and location of a “porous expertise” which potentially promotes a more agentive engagement in learning. The talk will also discuss this work in relation to recent approaches to mediatized play in virtual spaces which builds on ‘sociomateriality’ as a key concept.  There will be time to show examples of work and hopefully to discuss and debate them in the context of the theories outlined.    


Dr John Potter is Reader in Media in Education at the University College London Knowledge Lab in the Department of Culture, Communication and Media at UCL Institute of Education.  He is a founder member of the DARE Collaborative (Digital Arts Research in Education) and his research, publications are in the fields of: media education, new literacies, creative activity and learner agency; the changing nature of teaching and learning in response to the pervasive use in wider culture of media technologies in formal and informal settings.

The Enactment of Digital Resources in an Early Childhood Education and Care Setting in Norway

Ingvild Kvale Sørenssen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

This paper will present preliminary findings based on data from the pilot study for the project Visual Resources in Play and Learning in early childhood education and care (ECEC). The paper aims to explore how, in a digital and media-rich ECEC setting, digital resources are enacted.

Theoretically the project is grounded within the social studies of children and childhood, where one of the key features is perceiving children as active. Hence, instead of seeing children at the end of a socialization process as receivers of culture, they are rather seen as both reproducers and producers of culture, knowledge and identity (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 1999; Woodhead, 2008, Corsaro, 2012). In addition, the paper draws on actor-network theory (ANT).  A central notion within ANT is a socio-material perspective which relies on a relational understanding of the world. This notion enables us to theoretically incorporate materiality and perceive both human and nonhuman entities as actors. An actor is “anything that does modify a state of affairs by making a difference” (Latour, 2005:71). Digital resources in an ECEC setting are thus perceived as actors. By acknowledging that both humans and non-humans take part in constructing how everyday practices come into being, we can talk of a co-construction or coproduction of the social and the artefacts.

The paper unpacks the “black box” of digital resources focusing on how children, adults and the material artefacts of iPads and computers are co-produced through practice and the interplay between the social and the material. Preliminarily findings suggest that how children and digital resources are enacted differ depending on whether the use is initiated by adults or by children.  What roles the digital resources take, and what they come to mean and be, differ according to the contexts within which they are enacted.


Ingvild Kvale Sørenssen has a PhD in interdisciplinary studies of culture from NTNU with the thesis “Domesticating the Disney Tween Machine: Norwegian Tweens Enacting Age and Everyday Life”. Her research interests concern children and media and what happens in the meeting between them and is situated within an Actor-Network theory perspective as well as the sociology of childhood.

She is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the project “Digital Tools in Early Childhood Education and Care: Facilitating learning in pedagogical practices” at Department of Education and Lifelong Learning  at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).